Letter from the sailor

In 2000, I did a two boat build program with Peter Johnstone in Cape Town. We agreed on hull shapes, pilothouse profiles, and forward cockpit for our cats. Pete Melvin did a great job designing the hulls. We each customized our own boats using a common platform. After my 62ft Safari  was launched, the iconic look became Gunboat. Although I never had financial or management interest in Gunboat, I was always proud to have made a strong contribution at a pivotal moment in cruising evolution.

Our family sailed tens of thousands of miles on Safari. It was the perfect boat for that moment in our lives. Yet, I felt as if something was still missing. I felt I was missing an intimacy with the experience and sheer thrill of sailing.

Cats are great at accommodations. But all those berths mean mouths to feed, which means more time provisioning, which means more time trying to figure out who is going where in the dinghy and when, which means more time waiting for everyone to be ready to go ashore at once, which means more time fixing things, which inevitably means less time sailing.

So I made a basic decision: my next boat would be for daysailing with 10 if I wanted, but coastal and offshore cruising of 4 adults and two kids max. Two cabins and one fabulous head is enough to maintain. More people meant more laundry meant more time not sailing. Crew or no crew, thats what it means.

The sensation of sailing a cat is a bit like trying to sail a tennis court. There can also be a false sense of security with a cat. You are stable and upright, until you are not.

Let me say upfront, if you want to race a boat, build a race boat. If you want to cruise, build a damn safe and fast cruising boat. Safety is about speed. Speed means you can outrun weather systems, have less exposure to crew fatigue, and less stress on the boat. When you try to build a race and a cruising boat there are all kinds of compromises that sometimes don’t work out so great.

So lets take a look at why a trimaran, when done right, really makes sense.

 
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Balance


A trimaran provides the greatest righting moment between monohulls, catamarans, and trimarans.

A properly designed trimaran will give you the most stable platform in any sea state.

A monohull’s response to wind is to heel first and then move, spilling power initially. Unlike a catamaran which carries its mast on an unsupported bridgedeck, a trimaran carries its mast is on the main hull.

Since the windward ama on a trimaran is always flying, this additional leverage provides valuable righting moment when power reaching and in gusty conditions.

Therefore, the response of FINN with the additional advantage of a canting rig is to heel less and go more.

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The X Beam

One of the many outstanding design characteristics of FINN is the X-beam construction. Instead of using less expensive parallel crossbeams, Renaud designed the beams in an X pattern which has the advantage of far greater lateral rigidity and requires less reinforcement and therefore weight on the main hull deck. I am constantly amazed at how stiff the boat is in all conditions.

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Wave piercing hulls

FINN’s hulls are exceptionally gorgeous. The amas (outward hulls) have knife-like entry, then flare high and proud to high volume at the forward crossbeam. This allows the platform to accelerate quickly without pitching, and to power up safely when reaching. As the main hull lifts, you can feel the boat release. The wake smooths into a jet stream. The sensation is one of ease.

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Room to breathe

At anchor, the main hull appears impossibly narrow at the waterline. Down below, the cabins are exceptionally spacious. This sense of spaciousness is accomplished by the bump out at hip and shoulder level in the main hull. The main salon is improbably enormous. Also, the companionway is a half spiral on the port side which allows for clear passage to the aft cabin. Down below, even a giant can stand with ample headroom.

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Game of inches

Another trick to increase space was to offset the engine by 400mm to port. This allows walking access without having to walk over the top of an engine box. The fuel and water tanks are offset to starboard. All of the weight is low and centered to compliment the fine sailing manners of FINN.

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Always in control

FINN’s 43ft beam is a huge advantage in any condition. When I’m reefing or doing work on the foredeck, I run downwind, and the boat just stops. Period. Incredibly stable and safe. I do my business, and then head back on course.

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Upwind like a 767

FINN’s 18ft carbon daggerboard (drawing 11 ft upwind) exits the main hull below the mast step and provides the perfect rotational point for a truly balanced helm. The upwind performance is like nothing ever experienced in a cruising boat. I looked at doing foils in the amas, but I felt a safety line would have been crossed for cruising.

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Smart and safe headsail

I cannot stress the value of a good long traveler track. Anything shorter is dangerous. Take a good look at how long the track is on FINN. This allows for the helmsman to depower in a heartbeat. It keeps the boat from rounding up during a gybe. To reef upwind, stay on course, luff and shorten sail. Its that simple.

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Sail within reach

Big multihulls are all about the mainsail. Control of the main is where FINN excels. In total, there are three ways to dump the main without getting out of your seat. At each outboard helm seat: sheet-in foot switch, slow-ease hydraulic foot release; traveler winch for fast dump; nav pod mounted fast dump hydraulic release.

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Sailboard-inspired rig

We have all seen sailboards with their masts raked back and windward and the sailors weight well aft. FINN does the same thing.

With a rotating and canting Lorima high modulus carbon spreader-less rig, and an aft ballast tank, the trim and righting moment are greatly enhanced. During a tack, touch a button at either helm pod and the hydraulic ram releases the rig to drop to leeward. Push the tiller over and release the mast rotation and you come out of a tack in less than half a boat length with very little loss of speed.

Spreaders are a failure point. Each turnbuckle is a failure point. They are a pain in the ass to tune. Take a traditional rig off and you will spend days tuning the rig, often with professional help. I can’t thank Bruno and Renaud enough for advising me to do a spreader-less rig. It is possible because of the large beam of a trimaran. It’s not only bomb-proof, its always in tune. The two shrouds meet and then join to spectra which is connected to a ram on the aft side of the aft crossbeam. When one ram lets out, the other pulls in. To cant, the rig is either dropped before tacking, or pulled hydraulically while sailing with the press of a button on the nav pod. This same setup allows the rig to come off the boat in minutes by pulling the three large terminal pins. Its simple and robust, a characteristic of French racing designs.

 

FINN has a few unusual details which make perfect sense. Bruno Laurent (yes, that Bruno Laurent) designed and installed the deck layout and the hydraulic canting rig system. He was boat captain on BMW Oracle trimaran with no failures, and is now on Sodebo Ultim. He helped supervise the build. I joke that he and Renaud are part of the French multihull sailing mafia. The port winch pod is largely devoted to halyards (Constrictor), the starboard one is for sheets. The gennaker sheets cross so that you are always trimming the gennaker on the windward side. There is an UpSideUp system installed with fast dump buttons in main salon, nav desk, and each outboard winch pod.

Couple the canting rig, rotating rig with the wave piercing bows, FINN sets a new benchmark for how a boat should tack and behave. There is no fore and aft pitching that is common on cats, just a smooth piercing of wave crests as the spray is shed to leeward and the main hull and windward hulls stay bone dry.

 
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Bring your friends

Cockpit space is hallowed ground. You have to have good space on a cruising boat. FINN sports a cockpit that is 25ft from seat to seat. Sitting at the weather tiller, you are flying over the water. No one is in any ones way. There is plenty of space for ten people in the cockpit or spread out on the nets. A built-in deck drink cooler keeps requests to a minimum and the fun factor up. As a car guy, I just had to add molded in cup holders at nav desk and either end of aft bench.

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No play in the wheel

The tiller is finger tip light. Your connection at each helm with the wind and the water is absolutely pure. No sloshy hydraulic or cable steering. All three rudders are connected by titanium cones on carbon tubes. The main hull carbon rudder is designed to kick up in its carbon case in the event of contact. In fact, the MoD70 3rudder steering and canting rig is so balanced that you can let go for minutes at a time. FINN tracks that perfectly. Don’t forget to grab a drink as you walk from one helm to another while tacking. Its that casual.

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A little muscle

I’m a car guy. I make my living taking pictures of the world’s best cars. I study their lines. Every line is a form of expression and has a purpose and a voice. I could not resist a few signature touches. The “power blister”on the pilothouse is reminiscent of the 60’s American muscle cars, but it has a functional purpose. It provides excellent ventilation to the pilothouse under all conditions. Each tiller has a Hurst cue ball shift knob…yes, I just couldn’t resist.

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High and dry

Crew Protection should be a key design consideration on any boat. The pilothouse is flared to provide complete wind protection for the 10ft aft bench. The flares also provide complete spray protection for the winch drums, which have never seen salt spray. Sun protection is always found under the pilothouse (awesome dive platform). During inclement weather , the pilothouse provides all the comforts of home. As a final safety precaution, there is a centerline carbon tiller which can connect to the main hull rudder for hand steering from the nav desk.

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Built to last

I looked at everything though the lens of maintenance, paint included. How do you keep the matte paint on a boat pristine season after season? Ceramic coating is the answer. Its permanent. Soap water and a good rinse and its is exactly like factory new. Every surface on the boat, inside and out, was coated at the factory. Because of this, even the exterior upholstery is in great condition years later.

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Systems made easy

The 800L stern ballast tank, located under the owner berth in the aft cabin, doubles as a static pickup tank for the water maker. This completely solves the aeration problem underway and the clogging seagrass problem at anchor while making water. With the Spectra CapeHorn Extreme located under the aft bench seat, the unit directly discharges water overboard without the need for through hulls. Messy filter exchange is as easy as taking a book off a shelf. No muss no fuss. Watermakers and bilges do not mix.

In a nod to safety and simplicity, I deleted propane from my systems. Instead, I installed diesel powered Wallas cooktops, oven, and central heat. Not only did I eliminate a dangerous fuel onboard but I also eliminated the dedicated space and monitoring systems necessary for propane. I cannot speak more highly of the Wallas products. Their fuel usage is negligible. They are virtually maintenance free. They are completely odorless, silent, and powerful. The cooktop is easy to clean as well.

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Clean water, always

With FINN, my 150L Isotherm refrigerator is more than ample to carry supplies for days. When offshore, I carry trays of prepared food that stays frozen (150L freezer) and is available without hassle every day during a passage. Just thaw and then heat in the oven. The hydrogen easily keeps up with all of the power draw. While at anchor 4 custom Solbian solar SB88 panels keep the boat topped off.

And yes, the head is carbon, the counters are carbon, the full length mirrors are polycarbonate. There is a terrific deck shower and a wonderful shower in the head.

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Steady sleep

FINN sports two anchors, which is only prudent on a cruising boat. Her main anchor has 250′ of 3/8″ chain. Secondary anchor is 100′ chain and 150′ of 3strand. It seemed counter intuitive to carry the anchors and the weight forward in a wave piercing design. Therefore the weight is centralized in the forward crossbeam lockers. The capstans and chain lockers are easily accessible. When deployed, the main anchor is flown forward on a captive ring between the ama and the main hull bows. The stormsail halyard provides the vertical lift between the bridles. Its a brilliant system that Bruno worked out. The result is the boat is rock steady at anchor and simply does not tack even in a strong breeze.

The goal of FINN was to achieve a truly sensational sailing experience with an unrivaled interior on a platform that was easy enough to maintain, and begged for more time at sea. A platform that left the most experienced sailor thrilled to be a kid again, and the kids happy to be afloat.

I hope this provides some insight into why,

-Clint Clemens 

Click here for a complete list of the specs of Finn.